Go along to get along

Of course, Joe Pye weed in several forms is already here and I have added eupatorium coelestinum.  This is a pass-along plant known as perennial ageratum.  I also cultivate everything that has ‘swamp’ in its name; swamp azalea, swamp milkweed, swamp petunia, swamp hibiscus, etc.  Some things really shine in my moist landscape; chelone (turtle head), filipendula (meadow sweet) and the invasive, though lovely, goose-neck loosestrife.  Given that we have to weed anyway removing bales of henbit, knotweed and creeping Charlie, I don’t see any problem with growing a few ‘vigorous’ plants, often called ‘invasive.’  An hour with a shovel can set back an aggressive spreader like spiderwort or summer phlox.

Louisiana iris and sweet flag love wet conditions as well as some canna lilies.  I have several native lobelias which appear along the stream every summer and I have added the huge ligularia.  Jack-in-the-Pulpits’ do well here and are now taller than the ferns they live among.  I uncovered a nice stand of astilbe and aruncus (goat’s beard) while lifting the huge soggy chickweed off of a neglected bed.  The return of the foam flower (tiarella) under the hydrangea is surprising and it now mingles with some toadlilies (tricyrtis).  If you live in one place long enough and have planted random flowers over the years, you think you have lost a fortune in plant material.  But I have found that much of it returns in a slightly different corner or finally overpowers some fly-by-night competitor.

For my really boggy area, I planted ‘pitcher’ plants.  There is quite a nice stand of these fabulous plants at the Lewis Ginter Botanical garden is Richmond.  It is worth a visit to see them and the orchid house and extensive grounds with all kinds of conifers, garden room displays, roses  and much more.  My favorite part is the old shade garden where they have created the illusion of a stream which is really a pumped water feature making the land look like it is falling when it is really at the same level.  My pitcher plant patch is not so prominent as at the botanical garden but several of their amazing flowers are blooming this year and the insect eating pitchers are coming up.

Many water lovers are also sun lovers like helenium (sneezeweed), obedient plant (physostegia), and bee balm.  Some reseed vigorously like forget-me-nots (myosotis), foxglove and larkspur. Some spread like creeping jenny, ajuga and mazus.  And some are just plain delightful like thalictrum (meadow rue) and bergenia (pigsqueak).  Now that I have spent half a lifetime planting what thrives, I will spend the rest of my gardening life digging it up and passing it along to other wet gardens.

Sunny Lenz is a professional gardener and landscape painter working in and around central Virginia.

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